There is something odd about the present Conservative Government. On the one hand there has just been a decisive purge of Tory Remainer Wets, on the other Boris Johnson’s Government at least initially is liable to be one of the most left-wing in Conservative Party history.
Early signs are that Labour doesn’t get it. When a political party has been comprehensively defeated it needs to change. It needs to be honest with itself about what it did wrong and why it is unpopular with the electorate.
Looking on from the outside it is obvious what Labour must do. It must become a modern social democratic party that says it will use free market economics to create wealth, but then strive to distribute this wealth more evenly with the public. This has the chance to be genuinely popular. This sort of politics has worked to varying degrees in other Western countries. It could work here.
Socialism has worked nowhere. Labour’s task therefore is to purge itself of the far left. Get rid of Corbyn and all his friends. Go through the whole reform progress begun by Neil Kinnock and finished by Tony Blair. Find a leader who is pleasant and popular and is not a Remainer or a Rejoiner. We won’t be rejoining the EU. To campaign for that is to hope Britain fails. Pessimism is a vote loser.
Labour of course will do none of these things. It will either pick someone from the far left again, or else it will pick a Remainer tainted with having attempted to make an anti-Semitic Marxist Prime Minister twice running. I strongly suspect the next Labour Prime Minister, if there ever is one, will be someone none of us have ever heard of. The present generation are all guilty by association.
What this means is that the Conservatives will do everything they can to be popular with those ex-Labour voters in the north of England who lent us their votes. In the short term this means lots and lots of public spending and policies that on the surface look similar to the centre left. Boris will be Blair without the wars and all the other things that made Blair hated.
One of the key tasks in British politics is to stop voters voting tribally. For generations people in the north of England voted Labour automatically. The same was the case in Scotland. It didn’t matter how good or bad a Conservative Government was, these voters would vote Labour no matter what. But this has changed in the past five years.
Voters in Scotland have ceased to vote Labour, but they still vote tribally it’s just the tribe is now yellow rather than red. Labour used to be the party for those who hated Tories. But they are no longer that in most of England and Wales. People who used to hate Tories automatically now vote for them. The hatred is gone. In Scotland the main reason for SNP success is not so much desire for independence, but rather that the “I hate Tories” mob has transferred allegiance from Labour to the SNP. The driving factor for support for independence is tribal hatred of Tories.
But Scotland in fact is very similar to the north of England. The same sort of problems that affect post-industrial North-East England also affect the SNP heartlands in the post-industrial Central Belt.
While discontent in England and Wales was expressed by people voting for Brexit, in Scotland it is frequently expressed by people voting either for independence, Brexit or both.
The same demographic which in Middlesbrough now votes Conservative in Scotland votes SNP.
Something stopped ex-Labour voters in England hating Tories. As Tory Blue crept northwards the tribal voting patterns were overturned. There is no reason whatsoever that this pattern should not continue into Scotland.
There is a myth put about by independence supporters that Scotland in some way is radically different from England. This is because too many of them know almost nothing about England and loathe tribally what they have never met. Tory in Scotland is more or less a synonym for English.
But people from England and especially the north of England are in fact very similar to Scots. What just happened in the north of England could equally happen in Scotland. The impossible has become the new normal.
Scotland like England has just lost its tribal affinity for Labour. Scotland however has kept its tribal hatred of Tories. The task for Conservatives is to do what it just did in the north of England in Scotland too.
Conservatives need to reward their ex-Labour voters by demonstrably improving life in their towns and cities.
Brexit involves one of the greatest changes in the UK for decades. Well just as during wartime it is justified to borrow huge amounts in order to win, so too it is justified right now to borrow and spend to reorient our economy to its post-EU future. So long as interest rates remain low and the markets retain confidence in the UK Government, we can for a short time spend à outrance [to excess].
Now is the time to improve British infrastructure, housing, roads and railways. Give the NHS enough so that even the BBC ceases to complain. Demonstrate to voters in northern England that they were right to vote Conservative. Make Scots in the Central Belt envious and wonder if they voted Tory, they might get a bit of that success too.
The task of the Conservative Government is to park our tanks all over the Left’s lawn. Give left-wing voters what they want and take the sting out of Tory hatred. If we can do that we can win anywhere.
What about Thatcherites like me? We must be patient. Long term I would like much lower taxes. I would like to reform the NHS root and branch so that its foundation is the free market rather than socialism. I would like to turn the UK into a free trade, low regulation, low corporation tax business hub that undercuts the EU and makes us all much more wealthy than we are now. But let us be patient.
The task now is to completely destroy Labour. Let them elect another extremist or another Remainer. We are going to make Brexit work for the whole of the UK. We need to gradually ween the UK away from its love of the Left. We need to gradually teach the electorate that free markets work and that they make everyone better off.
Conservatives must win the north of England again. If Conservatives can do that, they can also win in Scotland. There must be no more negativity about Brexit from Scottish Conservatives. No more appeasement of the SNP. If Brexit makes the whole UK better off and in time it will, there will be no more danger from the SNP. If the northern English can cease hating Tories and vote for us instead, so can Scots. Let the blue wave sweep northwards.
This post was originally published by the author on her personal blog: https://www.effiedeans.com/2020/01/let-blue-wave-sweep-northwards.html